Just got back from a trip to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee with the family. I am not going to bore you with all the details about the trip, but there were so many fascinating things that happened that I cannot help but write about them, before they fade away in memory like so many others already have.
So here is a quick list of things I learnt/experienced/realized during this trip:
1. That even a vegetarian can grow to love traditional Southern (American) food, even if it means having a salad (probably not-so-southern), mashed potatoes and dessert (yum!) for lunch. I now have a newfound love for scrambled eggs and buttermilk biscuits and we will have to visit Cracker Barrel much more frequently because of that.
2. That there is an ‘America’ I know nothing about in spite of practically living here for the last 7 years. On one of the days during our visit, tired of all the money-making business around us, we made an impulsive decision to drive to the mountains. We did not know that we would cross over into North Carolina and get a chance to peek into the going-abouts of a predominantly Native American town, Cherokee. The town was unusually quiet for a Friday afternoon with most of the shops closed and streets deserted (probably because of Good Friday?). At a convenience store, I saw a native american family who were nothing like the american families I am used to seeing. Made me wonder what it would be like to be an alien in your own home, cornered in, er… a corner? In the wonderment, I also got carried away and bought some souvenirs from a tribal crafts store supposedly carrying handmade Indian goods, only to find a little ‘Made in China’ sticker on them when I got home. At least it was not ‘Made in India’, otherwise I would have felt guilty about indians taking away american indian’s jobs too.
3. What I have gathered from hearsay about southern culture, always gave me the impression that people from the south of USA are more conservative than their northern counterparts. For the same reason, I was not expecting a warm welcome and might even have been a little apprehensive about us being the only ‘different’ people there. Wrong. The kind of warmth exuded by the people was nothing like what I have experienced before in the US. Not meaning to say that I have not found other places to be friendly, but this was by far the friendliest places I have visited in the country. It might have also had something to do with the quaint rusticness of the people, that reminded me a little bit of home, or the southern accent that I find so charming.
4. There is no right answer to the question “where are you from?”. One time, I answered “India” and they said “I know, but where do you live here?”. The next time, I answered “Indianapolis” and they said “But where are you from originally?”. To top it, my smart Alec son asks accusingly later – “Why did you say you are from Indianapolis? You are from India!”. %#$#%$
5. I also found out that Santa Claus is not for real! Just kidding. I knew that. What I did not know was how magical he is. Well, now I know. Better late than never.
6. The best things in life are free.. technically. It’s kind of amazing that some of the best parts of our trip were the only ones that were free or cost very little. Like listening to this song sung by the old man himself. Watch the video below (it is still uploading and will be live approximately half an hour after this post is published). It is pretty amazing if you can ignore the noises the children are making and me moving around shaking the camera every 10 seconds.